CELTIC last enjoyed a shut-out in European competition almost a YEAR ago.

Joe Hart kept a clean sheet as the Hoops beat Ferencvaros 2-0 at Parkhead on October 19 2021.

Since that afternoon – where Kyogo Furuhashi scored the opener and a Hungarian defender diverted the second into his own net – the champions have conceded a horrendous NINETEEN goals in eight games.

It’s a disastrous statistic that has seen Ange Postecoglou’s leaky outfit topple out of the Europa League and the Europa Conference League last season and put the team’s hopes of qualifying from Champions League Group F this term under extreme pressure.

SINKING FEELING…Joe Hart is helpless as Christopher Nkunku gives RB Leipzig the first-half lead.

FACE OF DESPAIR…Joe Hart can’t hide his disappointment.

Only one point has been picked up out of a possible nine that has seen Real Madrid win 3-0 in Glasgow a month ago and RB Leipzig triumph 3-1 in Germany last night.

In between, there has been a 1-1 draw with the Ukrainians of Shakhtar Donetsk in Warsaw and the Bundesliga outfit will provide the opposition again at Parkhead on Tuesday.

If Postecoglou’s men are to have a chance of qualifying they will clearly have to brush up on their defensive work and CQN did warn of another white-knuckle ride yesterday when we pointed out the defence had lost 31 goals in 16 games.

The manager has already gone on record as saying he “does not pop the champagne corks” when his team keep a clean sheet. His attacking ideals are laudable and welcomed by fans brought up on the exciting and entertaining values infused in the club.

OOPS…Joe Hart is stranded as Andre Silva capitalises on his error to score the Germans’ second goal. Greg Taylor appeals in vain for offside.

EXPOSED…Joe Hart can only look over his shoulder as Vinicius Junior scores the first of Real Madrid’s three goals at Parkhead. Josip Juranovic gets a close-up view.

The great Jock Stein was born 100 years ago yesterday – as CQN celebrated in our many tributes to the legendary gaffer –  and there was no bigger advocate of attacking football than the club’s former central defender.

When he led Celtic to their historic European Cup win in the unforgettable season of 1966/67, the team faced the champions of Switzerland, France, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Italy – all strong international nations at the time – and veteran keeper Ronnie Simpson was invited to retrieve the ball from the back of his net on only five occasions in nine games.

Stein insisted on an enthralling and compelling style of play as he changed the face of football. At the same time, the defenders were left in no doubt what was required of them.

Lisbon Lion Tommy Gemmell, the flamboyant left-back who thundered in the memorable equaliser in the 2-1 success over Inter Milan in the Portuguese capital on May 25 1967, knew exactly what his hard-to-please manager expected from the men who lined up in front of Simpson.

THE BOSS…Jock Stein keeps a keen eye on training as keeper Ronnie Simpson is put through his paces. 

THE BIG SHOT…Tommy Gemmell wallops in Celtic’s equaliser to set up the historic 2-1 European Cup Final triumph in Lisbon on May 25 1967.

The iconic Celt told his friend and author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the player’s autobiography, ‘All The Best’, about the demands of Big Jock.

“The manager never put any restrictions on me going forward to join the attack,” said Gemmell. “In fact, he encouraged it, but God help me if I was posted missing and the opposition scored a goal. He wouldn’t overlook me when he was making his observations after the game, that’s for sure.

“‘You’re a defender first and foremost,’ he would say, ‘that’s your job. Get forward when you can, but make sure you are in the right position when you are needed’.

“And all of the defenders, myself, Billy McNeill, John Clark, Jim Craig and stand-by players such as Jim Brogan, John Cushley and Ian Young, knew we faced extra training sessions at Barrowfield if a team scored against us from a corner-kick or a free-kick on match day.

“That was a big no-no for the manager. The way he told it, no team ever scored from a deadball effort while he was playing centre-half. We had to take his word for it!”

Stein and Postecoglou obviously share the same philosophy. It’s clear, though, it’s a fine balancing act to get it just right.

It’s a skill to stay on the tightrope when there is no safety net in sight.

Here is the recent record that has seen the team average the loss of more than two goals per game. Celtic’s results first:

Ferencvaros 2-0 (home Oct 19, 2021)

Ferencvaros 3-2 (away Nov 4)

Bayer Leverkusen 2-3 (away Nov 25)

Real Betis 3-2 (home Dec 9)

Bodo/Glimt 1-3 (home Feb 17 2022)

Bodo/Glimt 0-2 (away Feb 24)

Real Madrid 0-3 (home Sep 6)

Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 (away Sep 14)

RB Leipzig 1-3 (away Oct 5)

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